With all the controversy going on at Ground Zero related to the Mosque debate, it's easy to lose sight of the positive impact spirituality has had on many 9/11 families grieving for loved ones. The experiences are chronicled in my book, "MESSAGES: Signs, Visits and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11."
On September 10, 2001, I was a happily married wife and mother of four children. My husband, Eamon McEneaney, was a U.S. Hall of Fame lacrosse player and Cantor Fitzgerald employee working on the 105th floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center. That summer, however, I did have a concern. My husband kept repeating that he was soon going to die; he also told me and others about a terrorist attack he anticipated at work. Only a week before, he had assured me, "Bonnie, I just want you to know that I can handle my death now."
After my world exploded, I couldn't stop thinking about my husband's premonitions. Did other people have this same sense of foreboding? I had always been somewhat of a skeptic concerning the afterlife. Yet, within days of 9/11, I also began to have a sense that Eamon was still communicating with me, sending signs that he was okay and watching over his family. That's when I first started talking about this with other 9/11 families. What was happening to them? Were they having similar spiritual experiences?
I heard so many stories that I started taking notes. Then, in 2006, I left my job as an executive in the financial services industry where I had worked for 21 years to write a book. I began to feel it was almost like a calling. If something positive could come out of this awful tragic event, it would be the stories of love and faith that I was hearing. I ended up conducting nearly 200 interviews with families and friends of 9/11 victims--an interfaith sample of Christians, Jews, and one Muslim. They talked about receiving signs in nature--rainbows, birds and butterflies that appeared almost magically, as well as premonitions. Highly credible men and women told me about visitations where they saw or heard loved ones--or felt their embrace. In some cases, they would feel enveloped by a loved one's cologne or aftershave. It was truly amazing.
JoAnne, a 9/11 widow, told me that she had grown accustomed to receiving signs from her husband in the form of blinking lights, but nothing prepared her for seeing her husband's spirit standing in her kitchen.
Lisa, another friend, recounted how her four-year-old daughter, Jacie, was regularly having conversations with her father and some of the other men with whom he worked. They were telling the little girl knock-knock jokes. When Lisa showed her daughter a picture of her father and his friends, Jacie was able to correctly identify all of them by name, even though she hadn't even met them.
Alison outlined the times she had "felt" her 24-year-old son Welles around her. Many people remember reading about Welles (the man in the red bandana) who is credited with saving a large number of lives on 9/11. Since Welles's death, Alison has become accustomed to having people tell her that they have seen or heard Welles, who asked them to assure his parents that he was okay. Among those who have had these experiences are a member of the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team, who "heard" from Welles when he was on a ski lift in the Andes, as well as with several other friends and relatives.
Welles's roommate said, "One night I was on the couch watching TV ... I heard the key in the lock and I thought it was coming from a neighbor's apartment. Then I heard footsteps walking down my apartment hallway. That's when I realized it probably wasn't just a neighbor. I looked up and saw Welles ... He walked in like he always did. We had a little table where we always put our keys when we came in. He stopped there. He looked at me. I was kind of sitting up, against the arm of the couch, wide-eyed, and I remember gasping. I remember him saying, It's okay. I'm okay.' Ithink I am more at peace now with the fear of dying. Something tells me that one of the first spirits I will meet is Welles to make sure I'm okay."
Although we are taught religious doctrines from the time we are children, when there is a possible sign that, indeed, there is more to life than the highs and lows of our daily existence, we tend to remain either doubtful and unconvinced or embarrassed that others will think we are somehow gullible or foolish. We still remain a society that requires 'proof' to believe in anything we can't understand.
As a former skeptic who has been transformed into a believer, it's my hope that the spiritual stories surrounding 9/11 will help convince people that love is still the eternal message and that we can all experience faith, hope, and love no matter how tragic the circumstances. I firmly believe that we should take a break from hate and controversy and respect the anniversary of September 11th as a day in which we honor the memory of the victims--our fallen heroes--with love and remembrance.